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Book Review

Paul Hinton

Ken Wilson’s book gives a fascinating and revealing insight into the background of one of the most influential theologians in church history. Until I read this book, I suspect like many preachers, I knew very little about the influences that formed Augustine’s ideas. I had used one or two of his very famous quotes, but beyond that I knew very little. This book was a real eye opener.
As far as historical reliability goes, I don’t think you will find a more thoroughly researched book. The book is actually a distillation of his PhD thesis on the subject. In the course of his research he read every single piece that Augustine wrote and in chronological order. He has also extensively researched the early church fathers as well as the writing’s of Gnostic and Stoic philosophers. This is a scholarly piece of work.
Ken Wilson shows that Augustine was heavily influenced in his writings, especially latterly, by Stoic and Gnostic determinism. He shows how Augustine moved from what was then a traditional view of free choice in salvation to a unilateral divine determinism. This shift, claims Wilson, was a return to his prior Manichaean views, which until then had been rejected by the church as heretical.
If Wilson is right on this, it is deeply worrying, as Augustine’s deterministic theology has gone on to massively influence a huge section of the protestant Church. Luther and Calvin both acknowledged Augustine’s influence on their teachings. Wilson points out that Calvin once said “Augustine is so wholly within me that I could write my entire theology out of his writings”
What ever your position I believe you should read this book and at the very least be informed on some of the historical influences that have shaped theological debate.  Ignorance is not bliss it’s dangerous.

 
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